With successful trials on two airlines, AirFi sees certification of its LEO in-flight connectivity offering on the horizon. Overcoming that hurdle is critical, of course, but then the real work begins. The company must also make the business case to airlines, sliding AirFi LEO between higher-priced, higher-bandwidth satellite offerings and the unplugged status quo.
CEO Job Heimerikx tackles that argument from both sides, pushing both the increased revenue opportunities of a connected aircraft and the cost savings. And delivering them without the cost and weight of a larger onboard broadband solution is a key differentiator for the product.
We’re not talking about browsing, streaming, or end-user behavior. We’re talking about making the business case.
– AirFi CEO Job Heimerikx
In talks earlier this month at the World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam, the It was argued that airlines should not expect their in-flight connectivity solutions to be directly profitable.. Heimerikx objected to that theory during the panel discussion, though the other may have drowned out the protests. Still, there are many airlines that cannot rely on other departments within the organization to subsidize connectivity on board. However, there remains potential for the benefits of an online flight experience. It’s just not the same one many passengers think of today.
The AirFi LEO system is a lightweight offering consisting of two small antennas mounted on the aircraft windows, a modem, and the AirFi Media Box. use the same Iridium Next constellation of satellites like the To fly solution now in testing at Wizz Air. But AirFi operates with a very different view of the market.
The two most compelling features of AirFi LEO today are real-time weather updates and on-board transaction processing. Bringing current weather information to the flight deck allows for more efficient routing and a more comfortable ride. An initial test with klm‘s cargo division produced strong results on the shipping front.
For transaction processing, AirFi sees an opportunity to eliminate fraud and increase cart size, reducing costs and increasing revenue. Trials with Atlantic Airways are promisingeven with COVID-related deployment delays.
And once the system is on board to improve payment security at a lower cost, the other use cases start to open up. Advertising becomes more targeted when systems have connectivity. Small perks for passengers, such as up-to-date connecting gate information, which can be delivered on board.
More importantly, however, the onboard shopping experience can be expanded to a much larger catalogue. Compliance occurs on the ground on arrival rather than in the air. The connection makes it possible to broadcast a shopping cart for pennies.
Heimerikx also sees a risk in opening up direct Internet access too much, at least for a certain type of airline. “For low cost airlines [streaming and web browsing] they are actions that they do not want to have. You lose contact with customers. It is very dangerous for the business case with that type of airline, as they lose the brand connection with the passengers during the trip.”
But a light connection opens up the possibility of real-time booking restaurant reservations, event tickets or tour packages for the destination city. The catalog can be cached on the aircraft just by updating the inventory and prices on the thin link.
An expanded inflight shopping experience is the kind of thing Heimerikx thinks could benefit even the most established airlines. as AirFi’s newest partner, easyJet. Today, that agreement covers snacks, drinks and duty-free purchases on board. Extending it to destination-focused products, with minimal additional expense, could be a huge win for the AirFi LEO solution.
Heimerikx also sees potential for a limited end-user connectivity experience as part of the equation, but the main focus is on operational benefits for the airline.
The fflya platform approach is mainly passenger courier service, delivered through a custom app and an onboard Bluetooth connection. The company monetizes the platform through targeted advertising on that interface. Also recently added credit card transaction processing to its portfolio.
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